Verily adds to its clinical trials toolbox with acquisition of startup SignalPath

The software at the heart of Verily has grown from an evidence-generating tool the company used for its own research into what is now a broader platform that biopharmaceutical companies can apply to their clinical trials. Now the South San Francisco-based company is adding to its capabilities with the acquisition of SignalPath, a startup whose own software helps clinical trial sites operate more efficiently.

Verily, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, announced on Tuesday a deal to buy Raleigh, North Carolina-based SignalPath. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Verily’s efforts began in 2017 with Project Baseline, a longitudinal study aiming to enroll 10,000 volunteers, tracking them over time to gain insights about health and disease. The software platform the company developed to gather these insights was named Baseline. The technology’s features include the capability of prescreening study participants and providing electronic consent. The software also captures real-world and self-reported data, and it supports continued engagement with study investigators by enabling video visits.

SignalPath, co-founded in 2014 by CEO Brad Hirsch, developed a clinical trial management system that later evolved to address other aspects of clinical research, such as study design and oversight of site management organizations. According to securities filings, the startup has raised nearly $34 million, most recently an $18 million Series B round of funding in 2019.

The latest SignalPath financing was raised in part to support the company’s move into providing the tools that enable study sponsors to conduct hybrid clinical trials —studies that bridge traditional in-person studies with virtual trials. These new software offerings are still in development, but that work is happening in parallel with the growing industry adoption of decentralized clinical trials. Biopharmaceutical companies were already moving toward such trials before the Covid-19 pandemic made such virtual studies a necessity. That trend factored into Verily’s decision to buy SignalPath.

“We are focused on the future of site-based, hybrid and decentralized clinical studies to accelerate evidence generation including drug and device development in a variety of formats that will make clinical research more accessible,” Amy Abernethy, Verily’s president of clinical studies said in a prepared statement. “Through our combined efforts, we hope to help bring medicines to patients more quickly, involve a larger community of people in the process by making participation in clinical research easier, and set a new standard for clinical studies and evidence generation.”

Abernethy, formerly the acting chief information officer of the FDA, joined Verily in June to expand the company’s technology into a platform that supports a range of clinical trials and real-world evidence studies. But before Abernethy’s roles in government and industry, she was a clinician and an academic. Her time at Duke University overlapped with that of Hirsch and they both had roles at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, a part of Duke’s school of medicine that conducts clinical trials.

The North Carolina connections will be maintained. According to the terms of the acquisition agreement, when the deal closes, SignalPath’s employees will join Verily and become part of the company’s clinical research business. They will continue to work from the Raleigh site, which will become a new geographic outpost for Verily.

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